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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Celebration of Grace

10 He continued, "Go home and prepare a feast, holiday food and drink; and share it with those who don't have anything: This day is holy to God. Don't feel bad. The joy of God is your strength!"   11 The Levites calmed the people, "Quiet now. This is a holy day. Don't be upset."  12 So the people went off to feast, eating and drinking and including the poor in a great celebration. Now they got it; they understood the reading that had been given to them.
(Nehemiah 8:10-12)

Revival brings a response of heart that cannot but help bring praise to God.  The people of Israel had been listening intently to the Word of God as Ezra, the priest, brought it forward.  They were moved by the Word - brought to a place of awareness about just how far they had drifted from what God had intended for their lives.  That is what a fresh look into the Word can do for us - it can bring us to a place of recognition and repentance.

Ezra is a wise leader - he knows the passion of their hearts, but he also recognizes the struggles they are having.  He sees the older members of the congregation and understands their deep sorrow over the loss of the former ways of worship.  The "old ways" of worship were destroyed when they were taken into exile.  The temple was destroyed, the walls of the city brought down, and even the "instruments" of worship were carried off into foreign lands.  The old was gone - that brought deep sorrow to those that remembered the "former glory" of the old ways.

Yet, he connected with the freshness of worship that God was preparing for his people in this season of their growth.  They were allowed to "return" from exile in a foreign land, now they were returning their hearts to their God.  The people had a renewed awareness that God was with them - that is the beginning of revival in the spirit of man.  When this awareness begins to dawn, there is a corresponding awareness that the worship God desires stems from a heart that is free of compromise.

There was weeping that day in Israel - some out of sorrow because of all that had been lost, some out of joy for what lay ahead.  Perspective often determines our response.  When we hold fast to what is lost, we are rarely able to grasp what lays ahead.  Ezra reminds the elders in the crowd of that very fact - let go of the past and embrace the freshness of the present.  

The Word of God had impacted their hearts - it rang true in their minds, affecting them in the depths of their souls.  The hunger of their souls brought them to the place of exploration of the Word.  As is true with all times of revival, God honors the hunger of souls willing to be "real" with him.  The dryness of our spirits is refreshed in the newness of his grace - whenever we are willing to truly be "naked" before God.

The true, unencumbered celebration of God is the outcome of a seeking and transparent heart.  We often worship out of a sense of obligation - God desires worship that is given out of a sense of awareness and hope.  The beginning of revival is hunger.  The means to revival is repentance.  The response of revival is worship from a pure, unmasked heart.